Premier League football was back with a bang last weekend. Saturday and Sunday saw eight matches, 17 goals, and plenty of talking points.
Where to start? Spurs are top of the league, Manchester City are in the bottom half, and Arsenal and Manchester United are sitting pretty in mid-table. Yep, totally normal stuff, nothing to see here.
Indeed, the table is starting to take shape, and fans are being left with more questions than answers. Fortunately, we’re here to make sense of it all, and help you get the ball rolling on those awkward early week, ice-breaking conversations.
Strike partnership blossoms between Werner and Abraham
When Chelsea signed Timo Werner in the summer for £47.5m, many fans assumed he was a direct replacement for Tammy Abraham. However, whether forced by an injury to Christian Pulisic or by pure design, manager Frank Lampard has instead chosen to deploy Werner from the left and keep Abraham down the middle.
The pair are building a solid partnership, too. With Hakim Ziyech playing a free-roaming role from the right, Werner has regularly joined Abraham up top to form a front two, with the German assisting the Englishman on Saturday for Chelsea’s second in a 2-0 away win at Newcastle.
VAR controversy saves Brighton’s blushes
VAR divides opinion like few other things in football, and it was back at its divisive best on Saturday. With Brighton leading Aston Villa by two goals to one in stoppage time, referee Michael Oliver awarded Villa a penalty.
But then VAR intervened. Oliver consequently went over to the pitchside monitor to review Solly March’s tackle before determining the wing-back did indeed make sufficient contact with the ball, and therefore overturned his initial decision. Most fans thought it was the right call, but that didn’t stop Villa’s captain, Jack Grealish, from taking to Twitter to laugh at the decision.
New contract but familiar problems for Pep
Last week saw Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola sign a contract extension, keeping the Catalan manager at the Etihad until 2023. A lot had been made of whether Pep would depart in the summer, with City struggling to reach their full potential ever since winning a domestic treble in the 2018-19 campaign.
City were utterly dominant for two consecutive seasons between 2017 and 2019, but have somewhat dropped off since. Many of those problems derive from failing to effectively counteract teams who sit deep and hit them on the break, and last weekend was no different, as Spurs dispatched them 2-0 with two shots on target and a measly 34% possession.
Mourinho and Kane enjoy a renaissance
Speaking of Spurs’ victory, it appears low blocks and counter attacks are once again the order of Premier League business — a landscape José Mourinho thrives in. Indeed, Mourinho has always been a master of defensive structure, but it had felt as if, tactically speaking, football was leaving him behind. Now, though, both his style of play and Tottenham Hotspur are back on top.
Harry Kane has played a massive part in Mourinho’s renaissance, and is arguably in the form of his life, having netted seven league goals and assisted a further nine this season. With players like Son Heung-min, Tanguy Ndombele and Pierre-Emile Højbjerg also all upping their game, Mourinho and Spurs could well be in the thick of a title race come May.
Should penalties be harder for the taker?
Aside from Paul Pogba continually missing out on the starting line up, penalties were once again the main topic of conversation in a match involving Manchester United. West Brom thought they’d won one after Conor Gallagher went down following a challenge from Bruno Fernandes, but the decision was overturned after VAR review.
Fernandes then got a penalty of his own and missed… only to get a retake with Sam Johnstone having jumped off his line prematurely before the ball was struck. Fernandes duly put away his second bite at the cherry, with his trademark shuffle-and-hop run-up, but it does beg the question whether such a technique should be allowed when keepers are scrutinised so heavily.
Calvert-Lewin back on top of the goal scoring charts
What a start to the season it’s been for Dominic Calvert-Lewin. The 23-year-old has reached double digits in Premier League goals for only the second time in his career — and he’s done it in just nine games!
Following his weekend brace against Fulham, Calvert-Lewin is now one goal clear at the top of the goal scoring charts, leading the way on 10, with the likes of Son Heung-min, Mohamed Salah and Jamie Vardy in hot pursuit. After Danny Ings sustained a semi-serious knee injury, Calvert-Lewin is now the firm favourite to go to Euro 2021, alongside Kane, as one of England's striking options.
Fulham just can’t catch a break
Poor old Fulham. The Cottagers have now lost back-to-back Premier League games by a single goal, missing a crucial penalty in both matches. Ademola Lookman’s embarrassing panenka cost his side a point against West Ham before the international break, and Ivan Cavaleiro followed that up with a shocker of his own on Sunday.
At 3-1 down in the 68th minute, Cavaleiro had the chance to put Fulham back in contention. Unfortunately, the winger’s standing leg gave way as he slipped and ballooned his penalty well over the bar. Those two misses come after Aleksandar Mitrović’s failed spot kick versus Sheffield United in gameweek five, meaning Fulham have now failed to convert three of the four penalties they’ve been awarded this season. Oh dear.
Haller back in from the cold in style
West Ham fans will no doubt have been worried after hearing news of Michail Antonio’s hamstring injury, but his absence has opened the door for the return of record signing Sébastien Haller. The France striker was bought in the summer of 2019 for a fee rising to £45m but is yet to hit the heights expected of him.
Until recently Haller had been warming the bench, but he’s now started the Hammers' last three league matches, and repaid David Moyes’ faith in him by scoring the winner against Sheffield United on Sunday. The forward’s top corner wonderstrike was the only goal of the afternoon and leaves West Ham sitting comfortably in eighth place.
Do Arsenal have a discipline issue?
Red cards are becoming a regular occurrence for Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal side. David Luiz, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Eddie Nketiah and now Nicolas Pépé have all been sent off already in the Spaniard’s short reign, and the latter’s dismissal certainly won’t have impressed the Gunners' boss.
Pépé became involved in a confrontation with Ezgjan Alioski before subsequently head-butting the Leeds’ wing-back. It should be noted that there was minimal contact, but it was a stupid thing to do nevertheless. Arsenal are already suffering from a lack of goals this season, and playing with 10 men regularly certainly won’t help to fix that.
Injuries? What injuries? Liverpool flex their squad depth
Plenty was made of Liverpool’s injury woes in the build up to their game against Leicester but, as it transpired, Reds fans had little to worry about. Liverpool put on a dominant display as they swept the Foxes aside 3-0, demonstrating their strength in depth with the likes of James Milner, Curtis Jones and Diogo Jota all putting in impressive displays.
Leicester had their own mini injury crisis to contend with — not that you’d have known about it from the media’s coverage — and were well and truly second best on the night, failing to take their opportunity to go top of the league. After that impressive result, Klopp's men move into second place, and must surely now be considered favourites to win and retain their Premier League crown.News Now - Sport News